The restaurant industry continues to rebound from the recent recession as same-store sales and customer traffic inched upward in March.

Restaurants continue recession recoveryAs a result, restaurant operators say they’re more optimistic about sales and making capital expenditures, according to the National Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Performance Index.

The index — a monthly composite that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry — stood at 101.4 in March, up 0.9% from February and a 10-month high.

“The solid March increase in the RPI was fueled by stronger sales and traffic levels, which bounced back from the weather-challenged results in recent months,” Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group, said in a news release. “Looking forward, restaurant operators are increasingly optimistic about sales gains, and a majority plan to make capital expenditure in the next six months.”

The performance index compares the restaurant industry’s health to a steady-state level of 100. Values of more than 100 indicate a period of expansion for key industry indicators whereas values less than 100 represent a period of contraction.

The Current Situation Index, which measures current trends in same-store sales, traffic, labor and capital expenditures, stood at 100.8 in March — up 1.5% from February’s level of 99.3.

For the first time in four months, a majority of restaurant operators — 55% — reported higher same-store sales compared with 44% in February.

Nearly half — 46% — of restaurant operators also reported stronger customer traffic levels between March 2013 and March 2014.

The Expectations Index, which measures restaurant operators’ six-month outlook for same-store sales, employees, capital expenditures and business conditions, stood at 102 in March. That’s up 0.3% from February and the strongest level in nine months.